Well here I am, finally getting to the last chapter of my New Zealand adventure... a couple months later. I am so glad I kept a journal during my travels! In my last post I shared with you all my time spend in the West Coast region on the South Island from which my friend and I moved farther North up to Abel Tasman National Park, NZ's most popular national park with beautiful golden beaches and rocky coastline. We decided that doing a four day excursion along the Abel Tasman Coast Track would be an epic wrap-up to an epic adventure. Starting from the small town of Maharau at the South end of the park, we kayaked for 2 days along the coast for the first leg of our journey, camping overnight in Anchorage Bay. Along the way, we paddled out to some islands (Tonga & Adele Island) to get a close up view at some fur seals. We also got the chance to kayak up a couple of lagoons during high tide. For lunch, we would choose a random beach to pull our kayak up to and we would sit on the sand and look out onto the beautiful waters of the Tasman Bay. The weather the first couple of days in Abel Tasman NP was perfect- it was sunny and so much warmer than the weather on the West Coast. It felt good to soak up some rays.
Our 2-kayak portion of the trip ended at Onetahuti in Tonga Bay, where we dropped the kayaks off to be picked up by a water taxi. From there we strapped on our packs and continued on to Awaroa- a couple hour hike. The next morning we had to rise before the sun to cross a rather large lagoon at low tide. I must say that I did get a little freaked out crossing a wide open sandy area (that would be covered in water in a couple of hours) in the dark- but in the end we made it across safely and were on our way for a long day of hiking. That day we ended up taking almost 50,000 steps, which equates to be about 19 miles.... thank you fitbit for informing me why it was that I could hardly move my legs by the end of the day. We spent our last night at Whariwharangi, the most northern part of the park. We took the next morning was much more leisurely before hiking back to Totaranui where we would get shuttled back to our starting point in Maharau via Gibbs Hill (let not the word "hill" deceive you...what a hill).
Spending 4 days camping and backpacking causes time to pass so differently. A significant portion of time when we were hiking, I would get lost in my own stream of consciousness and before I knew it, a couple of hours would have passed by. Something as simple as walking or hiking passes the day surprisingly quickly and by the time we were done setting up camp and finishing dinner- I'd be ready to crawl into my sleeping bag and go to bed... which was like 7:00pm, and let me tell you that is exactly what I did. Hike. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. Spending 3-nights in the Abel Tasman bush made my New Zealand Adventure complete and by the time we got back to our car, I was ready to a) sleep in a real bed and b) eat some delicious non-camp food.
We spent the next 2 days in Nelson, an artsy town on the northern end of the South Island. On Saturday there was a bustling market with farm stands, artists, and food carts- it felt like hipster heaven. I also discovered this AMAZING vegetarian restaurant which we ended up going to once for dinner and once for lunch. After Nelson, we headed to our final destination- Kaikoura- before flying out of Christchuch back to Aukland.
Kaikoura was a small beach-town that I'm sure is bustling with tourists and surfers in the warmer season. It was here that I booked a trip to go on a whale-watching excursion in hopes of fulfilling a life-long dream of seeing a whale (did you know that marine mammals are my favorite?). Not only did I see a whale, I saw four - 2 Humpback and 2 Giant Sperm Whales! I came back from the tour "bubbling with joy", seriously. It was a great way to spend my last full day in New Zealand. After exploring the Kaikoura Peninsula where I witnessed a fur seal literally taking a nap on a board walk (no kidding), we headed off to Christchurch where we would get up the next morning at 3:30 am (gross) back to Aukland.
In Auckland I had an 11 hour layover so I spent the day exploring the city. I couldn't help but feel a dissonance between my final hours spend in New Zealand and my journey as a whole. Cities use to excite me and grab my interest, but after a day in Aukland I felt drained. Perhaps it was exhaustion from 7+ weeks of travel, but I found myself wishing I was off hiking somewhere in the dense NZ forest or in the beautiful Southern Alps. I had experienced the restorative and liberating power of spending a significant amount of time immersed in nature and from that there is no going back. As it is at the end of all long journeys, there is no denying the excitement one has of returning home to family, familiar routines, and your own bed. However, as I sat in my seat on the plane getting ready to depart for San Francisco, a wave of sadness came over me because I knew there would be no other time or place where I'd experience and learn the things I did in New Zealand.
“The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say”